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Vote brings little joy for Japanese executives

Japan's worried business community expressed relief but little joy after the election victory Sunday of the pro-business Liberal Democratic Party. Some executives expressed concern over the economic problems that a divided Parliament must face in coming months.

Big business raised more than $200-million and perhaps as much as $1-billion to help the Liberal Democrats fend off a concerted opposition challenge in what was the most expensive election in Japanese history.

But in their comments Monday, many business leaders were decidedly ambivalent.

Although they view the ruling party as preferable to the opposition, some executives said the Liberal Democrats did not have the will or ideas to push through effective legislation that addresses domestic economic problems.

"It is not a result we can be happy with," said an automobile industry executive. "It was a brief opportunity for real change, and it was lost. That may be good in the short run, but over time we will pay the price in not reforming the economy, for consumers and for everyone else."

Eishiro Saito, chairman of the Keidanren, the most politically powerful business group, said, "I can breath a little easier now that political stability is secured, at least for the time being."

That stability is likely to help Japan address the growing trade tensions with the United States, some executives said. But domestic economic worries have come to the fore.